What is the Battle of Jamal? There are hadiths about the issue. Did Hazrat Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) and Hazrat Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) set off to fight for the caliphate? If so, how is it possible?

The Details of the Question
What is the Battle of Jamal? There are hadiths about the issue. Did Hazrat Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) and Hazrat Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) set off to fight for the caliphate? If so, how is it possible?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The murderer of Hazrat Uthman was al-Ghafiqi, a Yemenite Jew. With the martyrdom of Hazrat Uthman, Ibn Saba covered a great distance on the way of his cause. The seeds of discord started to yield fruit. This deplorable incident prevented Muslims from spreading Islam to other countries. The period of conquest and conveying the message of Islam ended; a period of stagnation and conflict started.

After this stage, Ibn Saba prepared a new plan to make the Hashimites and Umayyads fight each other. He provoked Umayyads by spreading a rumor that Hazrat Ali got Hazrat Uthman killed and that he wanted to replace Hazrat Uthman since Hazrat Uthman was from Umayyads and Hazrat Ali was from Hashimites. While the followers of Ibn Saba were slandering Ali like that, they were also trying openly to make Hazrat Ali the Caliph; thus, they wanted to make people believe their slander.

To this end, he chose a group of delegates led by Ibn Maymun, a Jew, from the caravan coming from Egypt and sent them to Hazrat Ali. The delegates said to Hazrat Ali, "As you know, the ummah has been left leaderless. You deserve to be the Caliph the most. We would like you to undertake this duty." Hazrat Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) refused their offer and sent them away.

When Hazrat Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) responded to them like that, Ibn Saba sent a group of delegates from the people of Kufa to Hazrat Zubayr and a group of delegates from the people of Basra to Hazrat Talha. Both of them rejected their offer of being the Caliph just like Hazrat Ali did.  

When Ibn Saba could not get what he wanted, he said to Ghafiqi, who led the group of aggressors, "Gather all of the people of Madinah in the mosque and tell them to choose a Caliph at once. Otherwise, threaten all of them with your swords..."

The rebels led by Ghafiqi gathered the people of Madinah in the mosque as Ibn Saba ordered and said to them, "Choose a leader for yourself immediately. If you do not do it today, we will kill you all with our swords including Ali, Zubayr and Talha." Having heard this threat, the people of Madinah went to Hazrat Ali and asked them to accept to be the Caliph. Considering the disorder and chaos, Hazrat Ali had to accept their offer although he did not want to.

After a while, Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubayr went to Hazrat Ali and asked them to act in accordance with the decrees of the Quran and punish the murderers of Hazrat Uthman. Hazrat Ali said to them, "You are right but the state has not suppressed the rebels fully yet. It is necessary to wait until the state dominates fully..."

Hazrat Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) wanted to determine the criminals one by one, question them and then convict them. Hazrat Aisha, Hazrat Zubayr and Hazrat Talha held this view: "The disorder has increased and targeted the state; the Caliph was martyred. The issue is not the issue of finding the murderers of Hazrat Uthman only. Most of those who joined this movement of disorder must be killed. Therefore, the rebels must be punished at once."

Acting upon the verse in the Quran: “Wa la taziru waziratun wizra ukhra” (Nor can a bearer of burdens bear another's burden), Hazrat Ali said no one could be held responsible for the mistake of others, and did not agree with them.

After finding out about the view of Hazrat Ali, Hazrat  Zubayr and Hazrat Talha went to Makkah and had a meeting with Hazrat Aisha there. They decided to go to Basra in order to gather armed people to attack the rebels.   

When Hazrat Ali found out that Hazrat Aisha, Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubayr went to Basra, he left for Basra with his army because he did not want a break-up or separation in the state and encamped in a place called Ziqar. Hazrat Ali sent an envoy called Qa’qa to Hazrat Aisha, Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubayr to settle the issue peacefully; he told his envoy to tell them about the evil of dissension and separation, the importance of unity and accord, and the fact that it would be better to settle everything peacefully. Qa’qa went to Hazrat Aisha, Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubayr and told them the views of Hazrat Ali, explaining that the remedy for that disorder was calmness, and that after the calmness all kinds of measures could be taken and that otherwise there would be discord, mischief and disorder, which would cause great trouble among Muslims. They said, "If Ali holds these views, there is no disagreement between him and us.

Both parties were pleased about the result. Thus, stability and calmness prevailed. Everybody went back to their tents.

Ibn Saba, the hypocrite, was very disturbed by this peace; he gathered his followers and said, "We must do something to start a fight and make Muslims kill each other. If we cannot do it, our efforts will be fruitless; we will not be able to reach our target." They made a new plan to start a war. In accordance with the plan to be carried out very early in the morning, Ibn Saba positioned his men around the tents of Hazrat Ali, and Hazrat Zubayr and Hazrat Talha. Later, they attacked the tents of both parties. Hazrat Zubayr and Hazrat Talha woke up to the noise and asked what was happening. The men of Ibn Saba said, “Hazrat Ali’s men (people of Kufa) attacked us at night."

Thereupon, Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubayr said, “We see it now. Hazrat Ali was not sincere when he wanted to prevent the war.” On the other hand, Hazrat Ali asked what was happening when he heard the noise. The men of Ibn Saba said, “The other party attacked us at night and we drove them back."  Hazrat Ali said, "I see. Talha and Zubayr did not agree with us about the peace." Then, the Battle of Jamal, which claimed the lives of ten thousand people, took place. Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubayr were martyred. Thus, Ibn Saba covered a great distance toward his aim after the murder of Hazrat Uthman.  

Question: How should Muslims see the disagreements that took place among the Companions?

The attribute of "ismah" (innocence), that is, "protection from sins through divine assistance” belongs to the prophets only. Only prophets are infallible. Since the Companions do not have this attribute, it cannot be said that the Companions never made mistakes. However, a Muslim does not exit Islam when he makes a mistake; likewise, a Companion does not lose the honor of being a Companion when he makes a mistake.

All of the mujtahids of four madhhabs evaluated the disagreements and conflicts among the Honorable Companions as follows: All of the Companions are mujtahids. They have the right before everybody else to make ijtihad regarding the issues that are not stated clearly in the Quran and hadiths. It is a definite rule in the methodology of fiqh that if someone has the right to make ijtihad, he does not have to act in accordance with the ijtihad of another mujtahid. The conflicts, arguments and battles that took place among them arose from the difference of ijtihad. Their own desires and wishes had nothing with their disagreements because they had been freed from the bad attributes like hatred, enmity and animosity by the religious talks of the Prophet. Their souls were purified from such mean qualities; and they became pure and lofty.  

Yes, each one of the Companions was a mujtahid in establishing the religion of Islam. As it is known, if a mujtahid is right in his ijtihad, he gains two rewards; if he is wrong in his ijtihad, he gains one reward. The ijtihads of those distinguished companions, who sacrificed their property and lives for Islam and who had no other goal but to exalt and spread Islam, aimed to exalt Islam. Their love and determination for Islam was so great that they did not refrain from expressing the view that was contrary to that of the Prophet during the Battle of Uhud. They stated their view clearly by saying, "We think that the success of Islam depends on this view." When most of the Companions had the opposite view, the Prophet (pbuh) had to do what they wanted. The events that took place later justified the Prophet. Not even a single verse was sent down by God Almighty to warn the Companions although the Quran was still being sent down then. Allah did not warn them with any verses; on the contrary, He ordered His Prophet to continue asking their views as he did previously. The Messenger of Allah did not blame them; he still loved them and showed compassion to them; he continued asking their ideas as he was ordered by Allah. Even only this incident is enough to show clearly that the Companions were appreciated by Allah and His Messenger and that they had the right to make ijtihad.

Now let us think justly. How can we dare to judge them because of the disagreements among them although neither Allah nor the Messenger of Allah warned them because they made a different ijtihad from that of the Prophet? It is necessary for a person who has the slightest degree of conscience, foresight and understanding not to try to commit a sin like that.  

If we dare to transgress our limits and try to judge those distinguished people, who sacrificed their blood for the establishment of Islam, and justify some of them while criticizing others, we will not besmirch those stars of guidance but pave the way for ruining ourselves.

Besides, the people that we judge are the most distinguished ones of the Companions. Some of them were given the glad tidings that they would enter Paradise while they were alive. Those people, whom we talk about, were praised by the Quran and the Prophet.

We should never forget about it and we should be very cautious about the disagreements among the Companions; we should avoid transgressing our limits.

If the disagreement among the Companions had not been legitimate and reasonable, a command to prevent them would have been sent down. As a matter of fact, when the Companions spoke loudly in the presence of the Prophet (pbuh) the following verse was sent down to warn them:

"O ye who believe! Raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet, nor speak aloud to him in talk, as ye may speak aloud to one another lest your deeds become vain and ye perceive not." (al-Hujurat, 2)

The believers are asked to avoid having bad thoughts about others:

"Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother?" (al-Hujurat, 12)

In the verse, God Almighty informs us that to backbite a believer is as ugly as to eat the flesh of a dead person and that it does not fit a believer. You can think about the degree of the risk of the issue when the believer that is backbitten is a Companion, and one of the most distinguished ones.

In a hadith, the Messenger of Allah said, "Backbiting eats up good deeds just as fire eats up wood”, warning us severely about the issue.

It behooves us to listen to those truths and act accordingly both for the safety of our life in the hereafter and for the sake of the future of Islam. A believer is prohibited from thinking bad things about another believer; the risk of thinking bad things about the Companions, who were the associates and army mates of the Prophet and who were the means of guidance for believers, and the most distinguished ones of the Companions, will be understood clearly. 

The safest way for the clever and reasonable people is to avoid sounding off regarding the issue. It will be easily understood when someone thinks about it a little that we were not sent to the world to analyze the problems among the Companions and to judge them as right and wrong. It cannot be the aim of our creation to have an idea about the issue. We were created to be a proper slave of Allah not to talk about that issue. That is, our religion calls us to fulfill our duties not to analyze the disagreements among the Companions.  

The Companions, from the Caliphs to the ordinary ones, received the same sustenance and shared the same excitement. They worked very hard, day and night, secretly and openly, for the development and spread of Islam. They made jihad and sacrificed their blood and lives. They opposed their tribes for the sake of the Quran and the Prophet; they sacrificed their wives, children and property. They preferred the Prophet to their own selves, wives, children and parents. They shed their blood for the foundation of Islam.

They contributed to the worldly and otherworldly bliss of the Muslims from their age to the Day of Judgment. It is a debt of justice and conscience for us to feel grateful to them, to pray and to praise them.

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